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Tales warns kids about Internet use

SYCAMORE — Although at the time her children were a bit young to use the Internet, attendance at a seminar about Internet safety scared Anne Matalonis.

The Sycamore woman set her mind to writing “a cautionary tale about Internet safety” for kids in grades 3 to 5. Matalonis wrote a family-friendly allegory using barnyard animals to explain the danger to kids without scaring them, talking down to them or using a lot of statistics they wouldn’t understand.

She said she specifically chose the format of the “The Fox Behind the Chatterbox” to look more like a chapter book. “I didnt want them to think it was too juvenile for them,” she said.

When the story was complete, Matalonis met with Sycamore artist Chelsea McGhee to discuss illustrations. “She loved the story and brought it to life with her illustrations,” Matalonis said

“I’m really proud to be part of this project if it helps kids be more aware of Internet safety,” McGhee said.

“I went with Anne to a school presentation, and I was surprised at how many kids had free reign on the Internet,” McGhee said.

It was the first venture into publishing for both women, and Matalonis said she self-published the book so she could have more control. “It takes two years to get a book published, if you can get a publisher to accept it. I was determined to do it all myself. (Self-publishing) creates a lot of opportunities,” she said.

“People have read it, and they think it’s accomplishing what I set out to do. It’s helping parents, educators and children, alike,” Matalonis said.

One fan is Micki Chulick, executive director of DeKalb County Coordinated Child Care (4-C) in DeKalb. “It’s a book that every parent should read with their child as they teach about Internet safety. Thank you, Anne and Chelsea, for using your talents to help keep children safe.”

Matalonis said the timing of publication couldn’t have been better. The book became available in December and a new Internet safety law became effective Jan. 1. The state law requires that, starting in 2010, public schools must teach Internet safety starting in third grade.

For more information about “The Fox Behind the Chatterbox,” contact Matalonis at 815-751-3639 or via e-mail at anne@orangetreepress.com.

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